Jeff Danziger’s award-winning drawings are published by more than 600 newspapers and websites. He has been a cartoonist for the Rutland Herald, the New York Daily News and the Christian Science Monitor; his work has appeared in newspapers from the Wall Street Journal to Le Monde and Izvestia. Represented by the Washington Post Writers Group, he is a recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army as a linguist and intelligence officer in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. Danziger has published ten books of cartoons and a novel about the Vietnam War. He was born in New York City, and now lives in Manhattan and Vermont. A video of the artist at work can be viewed here.
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If you're worried by the rise in violent crime — a real and troubling phenomenon — don't ask Republicans for solutions. All they can offer is a blame game that relies on dubious cherry-picked data. To get their message, just glance at Breitbart.com, the home of hard-right hackery: "Violent Crime Surges 25 Percent in 2021 With Democrats in Washington." You can find dozens of similar headlines across right-wing platforms, which invariably announce "skyrocketing crime rates in Dem-run cities." (Stay tuned for grainy video of a disturbing attack.)
Then there's former President Donald Trump himself, the loudest presidential loser in history, blathering fantastical statistics that are meant to show how dangerous life is in America now that he's gone.
Such assertions may momentarily satisfy the two-minute anger ritual that substitutes for critical thinking among the Republican base. Whenever something bad is happening, it can only be the result of a conspiracy implicating Democrats, immigrants, minorities, immigrants and minorities in cities — and preferably all of the above. Rising crime fulfills both the cynical strategy of Republican politicians and the primitive emotions of their voters.
But should you wish to understand what's actually happening, not only in major cities but in towns and counties of every size, then it's worth examining data beyond the Republican talking points.
Murder rates are indeed going up in cities around the country. And because most cities are governed by Democratic mayors, it is accurate to say that violent crime rates are rising in "Democrat-run cities." But, as the Republicans parroting that line of propaganda know, it's also accurate to say that violent crime is rising in "Republican-led cities."
While the murder rate has gone up in Chicago and Detroit and Philadelphia, all run by Democrats, the murder rate has likewise gone up in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; in Fort Worth, Texas; in Fresno, California; and in Miami, Florida. Every one of those cities is run by a Republican mayor and overseen by a Republican governor.
Jacksonville, Florida, is known as the "murder capital" of the Sunshine State — and has had a Republican mayor for the past six years. Fort Worth survived its most violent year in the past quarter century in 2020, with a murder rate that nearly doubled from the previous year. Betsy Price has been the city's Republican mayor for the past 10 years.
The point is not, of course, that Republican mayors are culpable for the shocking upsurge in violence that beset their cities last year — nor were they probably responsible for the sharp drops in crime that the entire country experienced over the past two decades. The underlying causes of crime rates, whether trending up or down, have puzzled criminologists, cops and other honest experts for many years.
Equally inaccurate is the claim that "defund the police" — a wrongheaded and confusing slogan briefly popular in the aftermath of George Floyd's 2020 murder — has sparked the growing number of urban killings. But the data show clearly that the same trend is evident across cities, whether they increased or decreased police funding. Even stupid slogans don't kill people.
Guns do kill, however — and among the suggestive statistics of the pandemic is the alarming national flood of firearms purchases. While most crime remains relatively low compared to previous decades, gun violence is way up. The National Rifle Association might tell you that more guns make us more safe, but life doesn't actually work that way.
The extremes on both sides of this issue are misguided. We would almost certainly be safer with more and better-trained police as well as fewer and better-tracked guns. Still, the plain fact is that we don't yet know for sure why the rates of the worst violent crimes went up over the past year or so.
What we do know — and what someone should tell Trump whenever he opens his mouth to exacerbate racial polarization — is that the sharp increase began in 2020. Yes, that was during his presidency. So, you could write a headline blaring: "Homicide Rates Increased 53 Percent in Major Cities Between 2019 and 2020," and that would be true, too.
Would that claim prove anything? Not really. Except that on issues of public policy, the former guy and his little partisan echoes should pipe down.
To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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Reprinted with permission from American Independent
Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) scolded 17 of his Republican colleagues on Thursday for helping Democrats pass "reckless spending." But as chair of the party's campaign arm, it's his job to get them re-elected.
Scott appeared on an online series posted by Americans for Prosperity, an anti-government dark money group created by petrochemical billionaires Charles and David Koch.
In the interview, he complained that 67 of his Senate colleagues — 50 Democrats in addition to the 17 Republicans ‚ voted on Wednesday to begin consideration of a bipartisan infrastructure agreement.
"I think you should be pretty disappointed first off. So last night we took a vote to proceed on a bill that we've never seen the text on. Just think about that: we had all these senators vote for a bill they've never seen," Scott said.
He objected to the package, which he said was $1.2 trillion, lamenting, "We don't know how it's gonna get paid for." And he said backing that package was "just part of helping the Democrats get the $5.5 trillion bill done," referring to a proposed $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package also expected to be considered in the upcoming weeks.
"If you think about everything they're doing: It's reckless spending," Scott charged, before blasting his colleagues for even voting to debate the proposal:
Should politicians be voting for bills they've never read? I don't think they should. Should they be voting for bills that they don't know how they're gonna get paid for? They shouldn't. Should they be honest with you as a taxpayer of what's gonna happen to your taxes? They should. Should we create a bunch of new social programs and all this liberal wish list? I don't believe that's where the American public is.
The vote in question was on a motion to proceed to consideration of H.R. 3684, a vehicle to allow debate on the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voted in favor.
"I'm glad to see these discussions making progress and I was happy to vote to begin moving the Senate toward what ought to be a robust, bipartisan floor process for legislation of this magnitude," the Kentucky Republican said Thursday.
The bipartisan plan will invest $550 billion in new transportation, broadband, electric vehicle, and water system infrastructure. It will be paid for by repurposing unspent funds, corporate fees, and expanded cryptocurrency tax enforcement, among other things.
Contrary to Scott's accusation, no one was voting for a bill they had not read. The motion merely allowed the beginning of the debate and amendment process. Passage of the bill will only come after its text is finalized and agreed upon by at least 60 senators.
In January, Scott became chair of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign. In that position, he is tasked with re-electing GOP Senate incumbents and trying to win back the majority in the 2022 elections.
"I look forward to working with Leader McConnell and all of our incumbents while recruiting strong challengers across the country," he vowed at the time. "Our Party is unified and united. We are focused on the future and we will win."
But five of the GOP incumbents up for re-election next year were among the people Scott just denounced: Idaho's Mike Crapo, Iowa's Chuck Grassley, North Dakota's John Hoeven, Alaska's Lisa Murkowski, and Indiana's Todd Young.
Polling also suggests Scott is very wrong about what the public wants. A Navigator Research poll last week found 66 percent of registered voters — and even a 46 percent plurality of Republicans — back the bipartisan infrastructure framework.
Other polls have also shown broad support for the priorities likely to be included in the Democratic reconciliation package.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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